Sun | Jul 15, 2018

Story of the Song | Third World remembers hot day in Morant Bay

Published:Sunday | October 16, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Members of Third World Band gather around a microphone playing percussion instruments on Thursday night’s main stage concert on the 2015 Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise.
Photo courtesy National Library of Jamaica Paul Bogle
George William Gordon

The Sunday Gleaner continues to revisit songs about Jamaica's National Heroes in October, ahead of National Heroes Day 2016.

Third World's 1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade) is especially relevant, bearing in mind the government's determination to have all of the countries' National Heroes exonerated of criminal convictions, as Paul Bogle and George William Gordon were both hanged for their roles in the Morant Bay Uprising, which the song is about.

St Thomas, has the dubious distinction of often being dismissed as the forgotten parish, but for those who are into reggae and one of its most durable and outstanding exponents, the Third World band, their song, 1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade), has significance connected to the year, events in the parish which led to a legendary trek, a rebellion, a massacre, hangings and two of Jamaica's National Heroes.

The year was 1865. The trek was from Stony Gut to Spanish Town and back. ("Excellency, before you I come with my representation, you know where I'm coming from.") The rebellion was around the Morant Bay Courthouse. The massacre was of more than 400 black people by soldiers less than three decades after Emancipation. The hangings were of over 350 more. ("You caught me on the loose, fighting to be free, show me your noose under cotton tree, entertainment for you, martyrdom for me.")

The two heroes are Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, who live forever in the public memory. ("Some may suffer and some may burn, but I know that one day my people will learn, as sure as the sun shines, way up in the sky, today I stand here a victim the truth is I'll never die.")

And it was real hot, some "ninety-six degrees in the shade, ten thousand soldiers on parade".

The song is 1865 (96 Degrees in The Shade), the title track of Third World's second album, released in 1977, and which remains a standout song almost 40 years later.

That outstanding album also contains Jah Glory, a cover of Dreamland, Feel a Little Better, Human Marketplace and Rhythm of Life.